Let’s expand our green canopy in the upper regions of the Clinton, Rouge and Huron watersheds. Trees generate oxygen, capture carbon and absorb water. Tree roots also guide excess surface water down into the ground.
New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles already have plans to plant one million trees in 10 years, mostly with tax dollars, volunteers and philanthropy. What I have in mind for southeast Michigan is a different model.
Overlooked by many green infrastructure advocates is that some trees have commercial value other than lumber. We could increase the canopy and simultaneously create or expand commercial fruit orchards, Christmas tree farms, sugar maple groves, nut tree groves and ornamental tree nurseries, in addition to native woodland stands.
Chestnuts are grown as a cash crop in west Michigan. Why not here in southeast Michigan? In California, the meatier English walnut variety is grafted to native walnut rootstock. Why not here?
Growing trees for profit requires lots of water, a resource California and other southwestern states are running out of. Michigan has a water advantage, and we should make the most of it.
If 120 communities in the Great Lakes Water Authority system each committed to planting 1,000 trees per year, we’d have a million more trees - and a magnificent canopy - in less than 10 years. And if done as I suggest, the project would eventually pay for itself twice, first in stormwater control savings and second in cash crops.